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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The worst 5* film ever?
Richard is an aggressive paranoid, Geoffrey a scheming nonentity, John a slack-jawed, shambling idiot. Philip & Alais are engaging caricatures, but all are one-dimensional cardboard cut-outs. The story & the often anachronistic dialogue is as lacking as the parts given to the supporting cast. So what makes this worth 5 stars?

Simple - Hepburn & O'Toole...
Published 17 months ago by Mike Watkinson

6 of 8 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars ''What Family Doesn't Have Its Ups & Downs?!''
So says Katherine Hepburn's Eleanor after a particularly vicious shouting match with Peter o' Toole's Henry. With a loving eye on all things Shakespeare (King Lear is mentioned early on), The Lion In Winter is a stagey, wordy melodrama. Hepburn delivers her broadsides in brittle Bostonian. O' Toole is weary,weary then SHOUTY, SHOUTY - then weary again. It's all a bit...
Published on 28 Dec. 2012 by Mr. Sc Allen

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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The worst 5* film ever?, 16 Dec. 2013
Mike Watkinson (Norfolk, United Kingdom) - See all my reviews
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Richard is an aggressive paranoid, Geoffrey a scheming nonentity, John a slack-jawed, shambling idiot. Philip & Alais are engaging caricatures, but all are one-dimensional cardboard cut-outs. The story & the often anachronistic dialogue is as lacking as the parts given to the supporting cast. So what makes this worth 5 stars?

Simple - Hepburn & O'Toole.

She won an Oscar for this; how he didn't is beyond understanding (assuming you'll ignore the fact that the Oscars are largely about industry brown-nosing & Buggin's turn, rather than ability). The performances from the two leads are incredible. Even though the script is unrealistic & a bit hackneyed, and the characters of Eleanor & Henry are required to switch attitudes like weathercocks in a hurricane, the panache, the vigour, the intensity that she & he bring to their parts are absolutely enthralling. Despite any faults with the script & production (as a re-enactor, I could bore you to death talking about authenticity, notwithstanding that that would be unfair, given the expectations of the time), it is a terrific film. Their ability to draw every emotion, every nuance, out of a bit of a dodgy script is well supported by the supporting actors' skill in doing exactly the same; honourable mention must also be given to John Barry's superb score.

It is, in my eyes, an odd film. The script isn't great, it's historically inaccurate, and unauthentic as a production. But, gods help me, it's still worth every one of 5 stars!
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45 of 48 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The ultimate family Christmas movie, 25 July 2008
Trevor Willsmer (London, England) - See all my reviews
This review is from: The Lion In Winter [DVD] [1968] (DVD)
No movie sums up Christmas or brings back so many memories of Christmases Past than The Lion in Winter. It's 1183 and Henry II's let his wife out of prison to decide the succession at Christmas court in Chinon: he favors John, she favors Richard and nobody cares for Geoffrey. Cue daggers, plots and reopened wounds as everyone tries to kill everyone else and nobody gets what they wanted for Christmas. Part costume drama, part Who's Afraid of Eleanor of Aquitaine? as these jungle creatures scratch and claw at each other's weak spots and almost certainly a lot closer to history as it was lived than as it is written thanks to a truly great screenplay by James Goldman (who stumbled across the plot while researching a play about Robin Hood that would later become the sadly underrated Robin and Marion) that's done justice by it's cast. Katherine Hepburn may have got the Oscar, but Peter O'Toole before the rot set in, reprising and bettering his role from Beckett, matches her tooth and claw, with Anthony Hopkins, Timothy Dalton and John Castle picking up a few tricks en route. The weak links are the reliably awful Nigel Terry's overstated John and Jane Merrow's Alais, a performance as flat as her singing voice, but as they are required to be simpletons and ciphers they don't get in the way. Terrific nasty fun.
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34 of 38 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A MEDIEVAL VERSION OF "WHO'S AFRAID OF VIRGINIA WOOLF?"..., 5 Nov. 2002
Lawyeraau (Balmoral Castle) - See all my reviews
This is an interesting take on the relationship of King Henry II of England and his wife and Queen, Eleanor of Aquitaine. Based upon a stage play by James Goldman, who also wrote the screenplay for the film and won an Oscar for his efforts, it has the feel of theatre to it, rather than film.
Here, Henry and Eleanor are in their golden years. Henry is fifty and his wife, whom he has had imprisoned for the last ten years, is quite a number of years older. He brings her out of captivity for Christmas, and she joins him and their three sons, Richard, Geoffrey, and John.
Peter O'Toole gives a fine portrayal of the aging, but still robust and virile Henry, who is in a seeming quandary as he debates a burning issue. To whom of his three sons shall he leave his hard won kingdom? He professes to want to leave it to his youngest, John, as that is the son whom he claims to love the most. One has to wonder, however, what kingly qualities he sees in John, played as a pimply faced, sixteen year old fool by Nigel Terry, who does what he can with this unsympathetic role.
Eleanor, however, tartly played by the always glorious Katherine Hepburn, prefers her oldest, Richard, who is the son whom she has loved the most, though he, too, has his issues. Richard is played as a blood thirsty homosexual by a somewhat wooden Anthony Hopkins in his screen debut.
No one seems to love the middle son, Geoffrey, and he knows it, though he seems to be the one son whose behavior is the most within the bounds of what one might consider acceptable, as he is neither a killer nor a fool. He is merely unloved by his parents. John Castle gives a strong performance in this role.
Eleanore manipulates each of her three sons, as if they were pawns in a game of chess, in her quest for personal power. Henry also plays them like fiddles. They, in turn, seem to care little for either their mother or their father. It is no wonder that they are totally disfunctional as a family.
Also, living in the castle is the beautiful Alais, sister to the young King of France, Philip II, played by Timothy Dalton in a very credible debut performance. Betrothed to Richard fifteen years before at the age of seven, Alais has since fallen in love with Henry, and he has made her his mistress. Eleanor is fully aware of the fact, and Henry flaunts Alais with gusto. Alais, however, is eclipsed by the highly intelligent and ruthlessly clever Eleanor. Yet, it is Alais, played with warm tenderness by the lovely Jane Morrow, whom the King professes to love.
Still, one has to wonder. It seems that Henry and Eleanor have very strong feelings for each other, which are veiled by a mask of supposed hatred and disguised by the venom that they spew at each other. The dialogue between the two protagonists consists of sharp and bitter repartee, which is delivered fast and furious, reminiscent of the dialogue spewed forth in Edward Albee's play "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?".
Eleanor and Henry parry back and forth the entire film, each trying to vanquish the other verbally. The two aging monarchs are aware that they are coming to terms with their own respective mortality, yet each is loath to let go of the trappings of their greatness, no matter what the cost. Hepburn and O'Toole ham it up with over the top performances, though given the excesses of the dialogue, which is often witty and full of ripostes that go for the jugular, it is as the author wished.
This is an interesting and clever film that will be enjoyed by all those who love theatre, period pieces, and historical dramas.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A romanticized take on English history, 23 Dec. 2012
Dr. H. A. Jones "Howard Jones" (Wales, UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Lion In Winter [DVD] [1968] (DVD)
This is the story of the acrimonious relationship between King Henry II of England and his wife Eleanor of Acquitaine. Henry was the first of the Plantagenets, the son of Matilda of Anjou, who was the daughter of Henry I. There had been anarchy in England for two decades or more after the death of Henry I as Stephen fought to retain the crown against the claims of Matilda, each with their warring armies. This right of succession, continued on with Henry II's sons, Henry, Richard, Geoffrey and John, and was sometimes aided and sometimes resisted by Eleanor, who was kept prisoner for more than a decade by Henry because of her powerful interference. Viewers need to know something of the historical backdrop to fully appreciate the movie; I knew nothing of this historical scenario when I first viewed the movie in the cinema.

There is not a great deal of action in the film, which is all about these family relationships and the right of succession. But the acting of Peter O'Toole (Henry II) and Katherine Hepburn (Eleanor) is excellent, and Anthony Hopkins as Richard (later, King Richard I) is suitably aggressive as the Crusade warrior he was, and John Castle is appropriately devious as Geoffrey. Timothy Dalton also has a well-executed supplementary role as Philip II of France and pretty Jane Merrow plays Alais, Henry's mistress. The film score by John Barry is also noteworthy. This is an excellent film: I have withheld one of the * only because the `action' rarely moves from the castle where they spend Christmas in a film lasting over two hours.

A Man For All Seasons (Collector's Edition) [1966] [DVD] [2007]
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A timeless classic!, 24 Nov. 2014
This review is from: The Lion In Winter [DVD] [1968] (DVD)
The perfect gift for all Roman history enthusiasts is THE ROMA VICTRIX WINE BEAKERCalix Imperium, Roma Victrix Pewter wine beaker
King Henry gathers his three sons, wife and mistress for the Christmas holidays, and what a Christmas it turns out to be.

Based on a play The Lion in Winter's main delight is in watching this vicious family in-fighting, chiefly the parents using their children as pawns in a deadly game.

Kathrine Hepburn often gets most of the credit for her smooth and calculating Queen Eleanor, but as the flamboyant King, Peter O'Toole is just as good, throwing tantrums and mood-swings, half of which are complete simulations designed to throw enemies off guard (much like Hamlet faking madness to better observe his foes). Anthony Hopkins and Timothy Dalton throw in very worthy supporting turns as Prince Richard (the future Lionheart) and Prince Philip of France respectively.

Lion in Winter will appeal to a broad variety of viewers. If you like epic period films, it will compel you with its impressive production values,innate sense for the period, and the political intrigue. If you like intimate films about human relations, it boasts among the most deranged family relationships to have graced the screen. Even if you are just curious, it has a score of unforgettable one-liners you'll never forget.

Not to be missed the perfect film for the festive season.
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26 of 30 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Royal Soap Opera, 5 July 2004
Set in Medieval 1183, Britain's King Henry II (Peter O'Toole) finds it occasionally useful to take his wife out of mothballs and parade her before the public. Henry's Queen Eleanor (Katharine Hepburn), long exiled to a faraway castle, is "invited" to join Henry and their three sons for a family reunion. In this way, Henry hopes to maintain a stronghold on his Empire and to prevent the balance of power from shifting to Eleanor or to one of his sons: Richard the Lion-Hearted (Anthony Hopkins), Prince Geoffrey (John Castle), or Prince John (Nigel Terry). Also on hand for the get-together is Henry's mistress Princess Alais (Jane Merrow) - who covets the King's influence - and the Princess' brother, King Philip of France (Timothy Dalton).
Despite Henry's efforts to keep his wife and offspring at arms' length (and away from the throne), Eleanor successfully reunites the brood, assuring that her power will not only be restored, but will last long after her death.
Barbed tongues wound to the quick in this James Goldman screenplay about England's King Henry II (1133-1189) and his dysfunctional family. Peter O'Toole dominates the film with his forceful portrayal of the legendary Henry. As ruler of a vast Anglo-Norman kingdom, the 50-year-old monarch holds sway over all that he sees, except his wife and three sons. Shrewd wit and elegant quality season the dialogue throughout the film, allowing the actors to wring brilliance from their tongues. During the film, the choral music of John Barry sets an appropriately ominous mood. And director Anthony Harvey occasionally mixes in action sequences, featuring poised lances and gleaming daggers, to pick up the pace.
This masterpiece is not without fault. As a keen aesthetic with an eye for period fashion and setting, I found it rather perplexing that the Royals were all dressed in what appears to be dirty, tattered rags. Amazingly, King Henry and Prince John look like a pair of vagabonds! I feel that more attention should have been given to this aspect, which renders the entire production side rather amateur.
However, it is the wonderful acting - in particular O'Toole's and Hepburn's - that carries the day and makes The Lion in Winter a masterpiece worth viewing again and again.
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44 of 51 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not an everyday Christmas tale..., 30 Jun. 2004
Kurt Messick "FrKurt Messick" (London, SW1) - See all my reviews
'There'll be pork in the treetops come morning!'
Thus shouts Queen Eleanor of Acquitaine to King Henry II, in a shouting match that never ends during the course of the fabulous film. An inventive historical drama recounting the lives of several of medieval Europe's most colourful characters, I can scarce begin to list the number of lines that stand out from the banter.
'The Lion in Winter' has long been one of my favourite films. I never tire of watching it, and love to find opportunities to incorporate lines from the film into my own 'witty banter' as appropriate. Peter O'Toole and Katherine Hepburn, in performances nearly unequalled by either in other works, provide the main action, while the very young actors Anthony Hopkins and Timothy Dalton help fill out the cast in their debut roles (Nigel Terry, later to play King Arthur in 'Excalibur', also plays one of the king's sons). Done in period costume and set (the King emerging from his castle, not on a red carpet, but rather striding among the chickens scrambling to escape the regal steps), there is an air of realism to the visual production that is rarely achieved in more stately presentations of 'lofty' history. There are interesting asides, not the least of which is that King Henry seems make reference to being a bisexual -- a very daring thing in the 1960s, as well as the rumoured love affair between Richard (Richard the Lionhearted) and the King of France. Nominated for seven Academy Awards, it won three, including best screenplay -- no wonder so many delightfully witty, pithy lines come from this film.
The real history of Henry and Eleanor provides the backdrop here. Henry kept Eleanor, one of the most desirable women (apparently in form as well as property) in Europe, a virtual prisoner during much of the later part of his reign. After his eldest son Henry died (an heir crowned in the lifetime of Henry II, a rare thing among monarchs, done in part because of the church-state problems dating back to Thomas Becket, alluded to very briefly in the dialogue of the film), Henry needs a new successor. Contrary to popular belief, the succession does not automatically proceed down the ranks of the eldest children (this would arise as an issue again during Tudor times, when there was first the attempt to skip over Mary and Elizabeth in favour of Lady Jane Grey; then later, the Stuart claim comes from their having been skipped over previously, by some definitions).
Of course, Richard (Anthony Hopkins) expects to be the heir - next in line, he is also the best soldier and general. Henry (for some unknown reason) prefers John (Nigel Terry), the youngest. Geoffrey (John Castle) is all but forgotten - history will have him die prior to Henry in any event, but he has the poignant line that speaks of Geoffrey's forgotten place in history. 'No one ever mentions crown and thinks of Geoff, why is that?'
The family has been brought together for Christmas in Chinon. This is a family best left apart, with great distances between them, as the sparks fly. All of the action here takes place in the course of two days at most and in the end, nothing is really resolved here. Plots keep spinning and turning, more Byzantine than the Byzantines could ever hope to be, without any real conclusion. I guess politics never change after all.
The sets are great, realistic, filmed in castle settings in Ireland, Britain and France. Nice touches include the juxtaposition of the commonplace with the royal - unlike today's royal cocoon, there wasn't much distance between the lordly types and the regular folk. The costuming is likewise well-done, understated but entirely appropriate.
However, this is a film of dialogue, based on the play by James Goldman (who also did the screenplay). The plots and twists are non-stop, rather like a chess game conducted with real careers and acerbic, witty commentary designed both for pleasure and pain as the situation progresses. In the end, there is a merry stalemate, and Eleanor returns to her confinement, and one assumes history proceeds apace. One almost forgets this is supposed to be a Christmas gathering!
At several points in the activity, the characters confess exhaustion and faint from the efforts of continually trying to outflank each other. Yet the politics, here both national and family in character, goes on.
A fantastic film, one that holds up well with age.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Family fun in 1183, 16 Aug. 2010
This review is from: The Lion In Winter [DVD] [1968] (DVD)
A super film. Some great lines, great acting, fine setting, all explore (through the lens of the power struggle around who will succeed Henry II as King of England) a very modern concept: how families that don't get along learn to survive Christmas. There are now two versions of this film, this - the original - and the later Glenn Close/Patrick Stewart one. Comparisons are inescapable, and this version, in general, comes off the better. The costumes are rather all-purpose medieval, it's true - if you wanted 'real twelfth century' you wouldn't come to this play anyway - and the castle at Christmas perhaps a little too story-book, full of anachronisms(like wrapped presents and a sort of Christmas tree) , but there are some cracking actors in this, from La Hepburn at her campy finest to the troubled Antony Hopkins.
A good film for a guilty pleasures night in!
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7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars THE LION IN WINTER Blu-ray from Denmark, 1 July 2012
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This is a very tough Blu-ray to find. Only Denmark seems to produce it (as of 06/2012), and I was fortunate to find one copy selling at Amazon UK. The disc of this 1968 film looks very decent, although not stellar. Colors/flesh tones seem accurate, sharpness and contrast are generally very good, although fine details such as tree branches at any distance tend be lost. There are no special features (save your U.S. MGM DVD for its director commentary and theatrical trailer). I am hoping this title will appear in remastered form in the U.S. eventually...
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5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars THE LION IN WINTER - All time favourite, 19 May 2011
BlackBrigand (Norfolk UK) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: The Lion In Winter [DVD] [1968] (DVD)
THE LION IN WINTER - All time favourite

This is one of my all time favourite films. I was fortunate to be in NY in 1966 and was taken by friends to the Colonial Theatre to see the stage production of James Goldman's play starring the incomparable Robert Preston. I must admit that I was not terribly impressed with the play although Robert Preston's performance was marvellous.

The Lion in Winter is a fictional account set during Christmas 1183, at Henry 's court in France. Henry wants his favoured younger son John to inherit his throne, whilst Richard is suported in his claim by Queen Eleanor who has been temporarily released from captivity by the King, and the third brother Geoffrey, Duke of Brittany conspires with Philip of France and John to declare war against their father. In fact there was no Christmas court at Chinon in 1183 and there is no historical record confirming that Henry, Eleanor, their sons and Philip of France were ever gathered together at this time, and some characters such as Henry's mistress are a merging of more than one real life persons; but the events and issues are historically correct.

I had forgotten most of the plot by 1968 when the film version was released with screenplay by Goldman (who also wrote the screenplay for `Robin and Marion'), and starring Peter O'Toole and Katherine Hepburn with a supporting cast that today reads like a Who's Who of the British theatre, and filmed in the UK, Ireland and France. This was in fact Peter O'Toole's second outing as Henry II having previously played the younger Henry in the film `Becket' opposite Richard Burton in 1964.

I was totally stunned by this film, I remember seeing it at the local cinema three times in the first week and again the following week as it was retained for an extended run.
O'Toole and Hepburn were superb as Henry II and Eleanor of Aquitaine with exceptional performances from Anthony Hopkins (as the future Richard I) and Timothy Dalton (as Philip II of France) both making their film debut, and more than ably supported by Nigel Stock, Nigel Terry and John Castle.

To my knowledge the film was never released in 8 mm in the UK but as soon as it was released on VHS tape I bought a copy and have since replaced that with the DVD which I still re-visit at least once a year.
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